Today is this rare occasion when I find myself home alone. It’s a scorcher of a day! Still, I decide to sit outside, a stack of books next to me on the table, phone put away, a glass of iced coffee. I pick up the first book, Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. I haven’t read this in a while and given how I’ve been feeling lately, I need the reminder. First chapter … Breathe! You Are Alive and within the first few pages the reminder for Conscious Breathing.
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Breathe In, Breathe Out, Breathe In, Breathe Out!
“Recognize your in-breath as an in-breath and your out-breath as an out-breath. This technique can help you keep your mind on your breath. As you practice, your breath will become peaceful and gentle, and your mind and body will also become peaceful and gentle. This is not a difficult exercise. In just a few minutes you can realize the fruit of meditation.”
Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn
I begin to practice and soon I become very still. My senses open up to the world around me. I can hear the light breeze, the leaves flattering and a myriad birds chatting away. A motorcycle revving up far away, the sound of a passing car, the indistinct voices of people next door. The sound of my breath and the dog panting next to me. I offer her some water.
There are bees humming, ants hurrying along, a hummingbird visits the salvia.
Early morning and I heard rain was coming. The peonies are in full bloom and already weighed down. They’re going to get damaged by the rain so I’d better cut some and bring them in the house. Off I go, clippers in hands when I see a ladybug sitting on one of the young, unopened peony blooms.
Change of plans. Running to get camera. What a treat!
I begin to notice the magical activity taking place in the garden early in the morning. The bees are working hard already. Nepeta and the roses seem to be their destination of choice.
Waking up on the first morning of our vacation, I was greeted by the view of the sunrise over the harbor. Mary Oliver’s words came to mind:
“Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning and
spread it over the fields . . .Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.”
I sat for meditation as the sun traveled up the horizon, its warmth increasing, coming through the open window. After meditation, Neal and I head to the bakery; a ritual we repeat every time we visit. We wake up early, go to the Old Post Office Bagel Shop, grab a cup of coffee and head to the beach for a long walk.
There are very few people on the beach this early in the morning. Some faces are familiar – having crossed paths with them before – most are friendly; we smile and wish each other a good morning as we walk by. Older people appear to be more inclined to making eye contact and smiling. Sometimes, we cross paths with someone who’s lost in thought, lips tight, looking away, removed. We all bring our stories with us.
Today, we meet a young man from Chicago. His dog decides to adopt us and walks with us, so he too joins us for a while. He shares that he visits every summer with his family. His wife’s mother has been coming here since 1948. Read more
I grew up watching my grandfather tending his garden. There were roses, grape vines, and fruit trees. In the summer, he would wake me up early in the morning so we could pick figs from the trees in our back yard for breakfast. Around noon, after the day’s chores were done, the children would lie down, under the shade of one of the fig trees to rest, while our mothers would sit nearby and gossip or knit – seeking respite from the heat. Often, they would tell us stories about wood fairies and how they could steal the mind of the unfortunate mortals sleeping under their favorite trees.
My childhood wasn’t easy but there was magic in the air and the magic sustained me; the deep connection to the land and the myths and vibrations of old.
The days I spent trailing my grandfather as he tended his garden, have fueled my love for all things blooming. Lately, these memories have been circling my mind; strumming at my heart chords. It’s been a long time and there’s an ocean between the child lying under the grand fig tree, dreaming of wood fairies, and the woman I am today.
My grandfather died when I was fifteen. That’s how old my daughters are now. The fig trees, the grape arbor and the rose garden are long gone. These days, I tend my own garden and although New England isn’t very friendly to fig trees, the magic still holds. The garden takes hold of me; I dream of it in the winter and come spring, it’s the first place I go to, tea cup in hand. It keeps me connected and grounded; dirty fingernails and all.
I began fancying myself as a gardener in my late twenties. My initial efforts failed miserably. Secretly, I was happy that grandfather wasn’t around witnessing his apprentice making a mess of things. I kept trying and failing and each time I learned something more.
I learned about soil and light and native plants. I learned about timing and letting go. I learned to collaborate. A garden exists in spirit form and manifests through the gardener, in due time. It’s always a work in process and transformation, based on nature’s cycles and rhythm. With each passing season, I’m watching my sense of perfectionism softening its grip. I’ve learned to be happy with my lot. Other people’s gardens can serve as inspiration but in the end, my garden and I have our own things going and it suits us fine.
Our moods are interconnected. Sometimes I like things simpler and other times I go over the top. As I change and transform, so does my garden. There are certain things that don’t change; my love for fragrant blooms, herbs, and roses. I learned what plants invite hummingbirds in my yard. I recognize the sounds they make and I know when to be still and watch for them.
The other day, I started doing some fall clean up. I’m still hesitating cutting back the shasta daisies and the peonies. Their dry stalks are reminders of the glory of spring and high summer. I’m not ready to let go . . . just yet. The basil is gone but I brought some parsley and mint inside for the winter.
The garden is preparing for darker, colder days ahead, and so am I. Each season comes bearing gifts but I have spring in my mind. Soon, I’ll start dreaming again.
Early morning … the girls are still asleep and the house feels quiet. There’s a slight breeze and the morning air feels cool and inviting. I made a cup of tea, cut some flowers for a little blue bottle I like, took one my favorite books and sat on the porch for some uninterrupted time with myself.
Uninterrupted time is a gift, a blessing, and a necessity for me and probably for you too.
It’s not long before the bumble bee comes by. I watch her making her rounds from bloom to bloom. Nasturtiums, echinacea, salvia, butterfly bush, cosmos. I put my book down and pick up my camera. She doesn’t seem bothered by me. She’s busy flying around, seeking, tasting, making her morning rounds.
I sit still, breathing deeply and taking all in. A hummingbird shows us. I don’t even try to take a picture. I know her. She doesn’t like it when I move. I choose to be present. This moment is a gift.
Today, perfection is in the quiet morning, the gentle breeze, a cup of tea, a small blue bottle with flowers from my garden, a bumble bee tasting the nectar, and a hummingbird showing her appreciation for each bloom.
Beauty and harmony are ever present – if only, we stop and look.